Destination Google, Thanks To Universal Search

    March 19, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Delivering search results beyond the ten blue links of yore on Google includes content from other Google properties in universal search.

Once upon a time, the idea of Google possibly buying AOL to have a content site to complement its search business sounded like a distinct possibility. Google’s revenue depends on advertising, so why not bring in a portal and its properties, and gain the extra opportunities to deliver ads?

Turns out we were thinking on too small a scale. AOL would have been one property; Google’s DoubleClick acquisition opened up a big chunk of the Internet to display advertising that, one way or another, will send revenue back to Google.

As far as content goes, John Battelle thoughtfully recounted his panel’s discussion of universal search at SES New York, and observed how Google became a destination through the way universal results deliver more of Google’s content to searchers.

He also sees a conflict of interest in this shift from humble navigator of the rough Internet waters to the sheltered cove of a media property:

To pretend otherwise is to ignore the reality of YouTube, Google News, Google Maps, Google Local, the onebox interface, Knol, and everything else Google owns that represent the chance for them to make money the way every other media company in the world makes money – by competing for your attention and monetizing it with advertising.

A report at ClickZ discussed the comScore data, which Battelle said arrived as the panel got underway. As a comScore executive happened to be on the panel, they were able to discuss their findings on universal search:

Of some 1.2 billion search queries on Google during a one-week period in January 2008, universal results were presented about 17 percent of the time, according to research released by James Lamberti, comScore’s SVP, search and media. What’s more, the total number of clicks on universal results totaled 16 percent.

“The search result page is beginning to operate as a destination,” observed Lamberti. “The consumers are a priority. Not the marketers.”

Plus, Google sent nearly 400 million search referrals to their own multi-media properties, such as YouTube, over six months. That includes 148 million referrals to YouTube and 173 million to Google Images, the comScore data show.

Of course Google makes editorial choices to favor its content. If it did not, searchers would see results from Yahoo Finance, the Internet’s top financial destination, when searching for stocks, rather than the lightly trafficked Google Finance.

A Google representative on the universal search panel probably didn’t enjoy comScore’s fortuitous delivery of information about how Google favors its properties, judging by his remarks:

Jack Menzel, project manager for Google’s Universal Search, said the company aims for relevance. “We try not to promote ourselves any more than we believe is fair,” he countered. “We try to be relevant as possible and not biased toward ourselves.”

If that is the case, why aren’t searchers seeing, for example, video search results from Truveo? That company belongs to AOL, to whom Google made a billion dollar investment, well, right ahead of AOL buying Truveo.

Google puts up YouTube videos, and as the Internet’s most heavily visited video destination, that’s to be expected. But should it be, if a more relevant result could be found through videos discovered by a property outside of Google?

Online properties outside of Google that deliver content competing with a Google niche may not be getting as much exposure in universal search as they might in the old days of search, like 2006. It puts them in competition with Google, which can’t be a great prospect for such sites.